On Zvi's recent post about French food I posted an inflammatory comment (saying in essence that French food is so bad American capitalism hasn't even bothered stealing it).  I got challenged to provide evidence supporting this, and particularly to back up my claim that there were more German than French restaurants near me.

Right.  Yes.  Evidence.  I am a reasonable adult who understands that beliefs must be supported by evidence.  So.  Here we go.

Some Google Searches

I've searched for '[ethnicity] restaurant near Grove Street, Jersey City, NJ' (I live in Jersey City, and the Grove Street area is reasonably near the center).

When I search for 'French' I can count 13 results:


And when I search for 'German' I count only 9:

Ha!  The foolish American has been hoisted on his own petard!  ('Petard' is French for 'fuck you').

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I don't think these numbers tell the whole story.

What Makes These Places French?

Google's definition of 'French' and 'German' restaurants here appears to be extremely expansive.  

  • Hudson Hound Jersey City, an 'Irish gastropub', shows up on the French search.
  • Shadman, a 'go-to for Pakistani and Indian cuisine', shows up on the German search.
  • Luna, for 'Italian eats', shows up on the French search.
  • Frankie, an 'Australian eatery', shows up on the German search.

So, for lack of anything better to do, I've gone through manually to look for things that I think 'count' as French or German.

The two 'real' German places (and the ones I was thinking of in my comment) are 'Wurstbar' and 'Zeppelin Hall Beer Garden', and while we may question the taste of these places I do not think we can question their German-ness.  The search also turned up 'Hudson Hall', a 'Euro beer bar with house-smoked meats', which I think at least ambiguously might count.

It's less clear to me how many of the hits for 'French restaurant' are actually both French and restaurants.  Certainly I've been to a few of these places, and none of them have charged me twenty-three dollars for a baguette while sneering at me.  We have:

  • Cafe Madelaine describes itself as a French restaurant.  We count that.
  • Choc O Pain definitely sounds French, but it's not clear to me if it's actually a restaurant: it seems to actually be a bakery, and the menu seems to bear that out.  I'll give it half.
  • Hudson Hound self-describes as 'Irish'.
  • Matthews Food and Drink self-describes as 'American' (though I guess it also self-describes as 'chic').
  • Grove Station self-describes as 'New American' (I have no idea what that means).
  • El Sazon De Las Americas self-describes as 'Dominican' (I don't think that counts as French, though I'm sure someone will make the case).
  • Uncle Momo self-describes as 'French-Lebanese fare'.  Let's give that half again.
  • Beechwood Cafe self-describes as 'American'.
  • Luna self-describes as 'Italian'.
  • Razza is an Italian pizza place.
  • Short Grain is...uh...a 'hip place with sidewalk seats serving Asian-influenced & vegetarian dishes, plus coffee & green tea', and while I have no idea what that is and don't particularly want to find out I don't think it means 'French'.
  • Frankie self-describes as 'Italian'.
  • Cafe Dolma self-describes as 'Greek'.

So overall I think 'French' and 'German' each end up with either 2 or 3 restaurants, depending on how you count some edge cases.


I am sorry that I said French food was not as successful under capitalism as German food.  I see now that French food is exactly as popular and successful as German food, and I'll fight anyone who says otherwise!

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19 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 4:01 PM

This is as much a nitpick with Zvi's article as with this one, but french food just seems hard to find because its easy to misidentify.  french technique is the bedrock of american food - both as the history of fine dining(/haute cuisine)  routes directly through french chefs, restaurants, systems, and techniques and as french food has been repurposed into american food.  
Some examples: mayonnaise, the delicate, challenging-to-make emulsion of flavored fats and vinegars,controversially a mother sauce* becomes 'mayo' the white stuff that goes on sandwiches; charcuterie becomes the deli isle;  boeuf bourguignon becomes stew.  

so in your example you can probably (haven't researched the restaurant, but from general knowledge as a processional chef) count at least the "new american" restaurant as french as "new american" is the (new(ish)) American take on a fine dining tradition that comes from france. 'Chef' just means 'chief' in french (like the military rank or the man in charge) and comes from the brigade system (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigade_de_cuisine)  

((https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_mother_sauces)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcDk-JcAnOw )

I feel like giving the French credit for stew is a stretch even stretchier than giving them credit for thinly slicing meat.

Thank god for the French inventing stew, I say, so that the British, Spanish, Italians, Greeks, Germans, Russians, West Africans, North Africans, Northeast Native Americans, Aztecs, Mayans, Persians, Pakistanis, South Indians, Central Asians and Chinese could learn how to put ingredients in a pot and boil them.

One may also add that ‘bœuf bourguignon’ literally translates as ‘Burgundy beef’, for the very good reason that it is cooked in red wine. That’s not exactly ‘inventing stew’, although it tastes great

I don’t think it’s true that the origins of mayonnaise have anything to do with mother sauces. Wikipedia seems to agree. (It also doesn’t seem to be French in origin.)

It seems to be of French origin. The name is French and the French cuisine adopted first. The main hypothesis for its apparition is that Richelieu's cook invented it out of lack of alternative ingredients while occupying the city of Mahon in Spain. Source: same as you.

It seems you didn’t read very closely:

In 1750, Francesc Roger Gomila, a Valencian friar, published a recipe for a sauce similar to mayonnaise in Art de la Cuina ('The Art of Cooking'). He calls the sauce aioli bo.[14] If he does not describe precisely the recipe—suggesting that it was known by everyone on the island—the way it is used, the preparations for which it is used as a base and the dishes with which it is associated are most often inconceivable with an aioli. Earlier recipes of similar emulsified sauces, usually containing garlic, appear in a number of Spanish recipe books dating all the way back to the 14th century Llibre de Sent Soví, where it is called all-i-oli, literally 'garlic and oil' in Catalan.[15][16] This sauce had clearly spread throughout the Crown of Aragon, for Juan de Altamiras gives a recipe for it in his celebrated 1745 recipe book Nuevo Arte de Cocina ('New Art of Cooking').[17]

(Plus the part about remoulade, etc.)

Yes, it seems I read too fast.

I accept that mayonaise is an evolution of allioli (but maintain that the historical fact is that its american ubiquity routes through french chefs). 

Wikipedia also doesn't say that it's not a mother sauce, if you scroll down you'll find this: 
"Auguste Escoffier wrote that mayonnaise was a French mother sauce of cold sauces,[27] like 'espagnole or velouté. "
I originally wrote "controversially a mother sauce" because the most common listing of mother sauces on the internet is ~wrong- The youtube video i linked includes primary source scholarship on the topic that has begun to update the general understanding in the direction that the quote supports.  


Mayonnaise is an evolution of aillioli, but not the same thing: it doesn’t have garlic. In fact, southern France also has aioli, with garlic, and these two things are separate.

Chef' just means 'chief' in french (like the military rank or the man in charge) and comes from the brigade system (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigade_de_cuisine)

In addition, in the context of cooking, chef means "cook", and it's common to call the cook "chef", even if it's your friend who's making a barbecue. It has positive connotations, implying that the cook is skilled.

I didn't upvote because I don't think LW is the right place for this sort of content. That said, this was hilarious and I'm glad you wrote it.

Your comment made me upvote. I think LW is exactly the right place for this sort of writing. It's got error corrections, empiricism, high epistemic standards, ontological bucketing, a willingness to admit when one is wrong, and maps.

Why not? It's someone empirically investigating their beliefs and how well their terminology cuts reality at the joints, doesn't get much more rationalist than that. Not every post has to be at the highest level of rigor or about topics of the gravest importance(especially since it's currently a 'personal blog post', not frontpage)

While investigative posts, especially ones where someone updated during the investigation, are good, I think there wasn't enough content in there. But on reflection, I think my initial comment was wrong. For one, shortform would be a good place for this. For another, part of my intent with the initial comment was "whilst this is not what I read the front page for, it was pretty good." 

'Petard' is French for 'fuck you'


Is it though? Where have you heard that? 

If we search for Pétard in google translate, the results are petard, firecracker, squib, cracker, banger, maroon, backfire, whizz bang, which doesn't seem to match your definition. If we try Petard, google translate auto-corrects into Pétard so I'm assuming this is what you meant.

Maybe google translate doesn't know swear words though? To check that, I try to translate Putain, which is a foul word for prostitute. I will not write the results here, but you can check for yourself that the results match this definition.

If we go the other way around, and try to translate fuck you, we get a french sentence which I won't write here either, but perfectly matches the english sentence.

What evidence supporting this can you provide?

[EDIT] You may also want to check Pétard(homonymie) on wikipedia

I'm French. Pétard is a very minor swear word, on par with "great Scott!" 

It's not meant as an insult at all. The most common French swear word is probably "putain" (used like "fuck" is) and pétard is used as an attenuated version, (like saying "fudge"). 

(As a frenchman, I also admit to the existence of a writhing snake inside my gut telling me to downvote this heretical post which dares! compare French cuisine with German cuisine. Luckily, I have learned enough rationality to override my primal instincts.)

It's also very old-fashioned. Can't say I've ever heard anyone below 60 say "pétard" unironically.

I don’t think it was intended as a serious translation.

A petard is a bomb, and to be hoist means (or meant as Shakespeare used it, for the expression comes from Hamlet) to be blown up into the air.

"Café Madelaine is a French Bakery and Pastry shop located at 34 Coles Street, Jersey City, NJ 07302" According to their own website.

So that doesn't seem to count as a real sit-down restaurant.